The Nightingale

The Nightingale.jpg




FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another. 

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.


My review:


“I had forgotten how gently time passes in Paris. As lively as the city is, there's a stillness to it, a peace that lures you in. In Paris, with a glass of wine in your hand, you can just be.
All along the Seine, street lamps come on, apartment windows turn golden.
"It's seven," Julien says, and I realize that he has been keeping time all along, waiting. He is so American. No sitting idle, forgetting oneself, not for this young man of mine.” 

― Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale

I seem to have a weak spot for a novel that starts off with this sweet old lady rummaging around in the attic finding an old memory box. How can you not just melt right there?

“Grief, like regret, settles into our DNA and remains forever a part of us.” 
― Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale

…..this is why I love historical fiction. (I must hold a lot of it in my DNA). That aside, I really do enjoy hearing/ reading first accounts of events in history. 

This novel has had great reviews and is well loved in the readers community and I was finally able to read it. Having lived in Europe and visited France several times, I want to say that the author did a wonderful job describing the setting to all your senses. The streets, the markets, the cafes the foods. All of it. You can tell she knows what she is writing about. 

In regards to the character development for the first half of the novel, I wasn’t quite as convinced or shall I say, I felt maybe not as connected. The two main characters, sisters Isabelle and Vianne are very different from each other. At times I felt that even though that point had been communicated across, it was made over and over. One sister is stubborn and doesn’t listen, the other calls herself “only” a Hausfrau. I am not sure…but by chapter 17, I wanted to give up. I don’t do well with reading about a characters baggage for so long. 

It turns out I was only one chapter away from the story to pick up and becoming or mending into its own. All the elements and all that setting the tone, it finally started rolling. The sisters came to their own and lived up to doing their part in the war. I have to admit, I had put the book aside for a few days and continued with the audio book version at that point.

“what good is safety if she has to grow up in a world where people disappear without a trace because they pray to a different God?” 
― Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale

As you journey through this story and follow the characters you will get a glimpse of what it was like to live during WWII in France, when your beloved home becomes occupied by Nazis, when your food is rationed, when your possessions are taken, jobs are lost, money is tight, people are segregated and taken away to labor camps, woman are raped and loved ones don’t come home. You will feel brave with the characters for upholding so long, for doing brave things and for enduring. You will fall with them during the hardest of times. 

“In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are” 
― Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale

The book renders to a sweet ending that has left many readers shed a tear or so. I did not have the same exact experience but I do appreciate how it all came together. My honest rating of 3.5 comes from the fact that I almost did not finish the book. It was simply to long for the first half of it with some emptiness to it. Intended so or not, it didn’t grasp me or pull me in as I had hoped for, or make up for my experience of the first half of the book. 

Since I listened to the second half of the book on audio, and had returned the physical book to the library, I cannot tell if there was an author's note or epilogue. I do appreciate those, especially when it answers some questions in regards to the research or inspiration for the book. Some audio books actually have the author read that part. I would have loved to hear Kristin Hannah's thoughts at the end.